The FBI will be free to interview anyone it wants in the investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The White House has given the FBI one week to look into the claims against Kavanaugh, and has widened the scope of the investigation to allow the agency to pursue any information it sees fit.
According to a source close to the investigation who spoke to AP, the decision was made after claims from some Democrats and media outlets that the original scope of the investigation was too narrow.
For the past four days, the FBI has been pursuing its investigation and has spoken to several people so far, including some of the men who Dr Christine Blasey Ford said were present at the party where she was allegedly sexually assaulted. Ford claims Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her during a party in the early 1980s.
President Trump told a news conference on October 1st that he wanted the FBI to do a "comprehensive" investigation and "it wouldn't bother me at all" if agents pursued the accusations against Kavanaugh. So far, three women have come forward with allegations. Trump added that Senate Republicans are determining the parameters of the investigation and "ultimately, they're making the judgment".
"My White House will do whatever the senators want," Trump said. "The one thing I want is speed."
The change is aimed at emphasising the thoroughness and fairness of the probe. The additional stipulation that the investigation should be concluded by October 5th is also aimed at preventing it from becoming open-ended and extending across several weeks. Officials, however, have said it is possible the investigation will be wrapped up by Friday, but not likely.
Trump said a comprehensive investigation is "a good thing" for Kavanaugh and it was fine for the FBI to interview all three women who have made accusations. He was more circumspect when he added, "We don't want to go on a witch hunt, do we?".
One person the FBI has interviewed is Mark Judge, a high school friend of Kavanaugh. Ford identified Judge as one of the people in the room when, according to her, a drunk Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. Judge has denied allegations of misconduct. His lawyer, Barbara "Biz" Van Gelder, said on October 1st that Judge had been interviewed, "but his interview has not been completed." She did not provide any further details.
Another witness, Patrick "PJ" Smyth, answered "every question" he was asked. His attorney, Eric Bruce, said Smyth had told agents he had "no knowledge" of the small gathering which Ford had described. Smyth also told the FBI he has no "knowledge of Ford's allegations of improper conduct against Kavanaugh," according to Bruce.
Ford said Smyth, whom she remembered as "PJ," was downstairs at the time of the assault.
The FBI has also interviewed Leland Keyser. This is one of the people named by Ford herself, who said she attended the same party. Keyser's attorney, Howard Walsh, said she was questioned by FBI agents on Saturday. He did not provide any further information.
Walsh said in previous interviews that his client does not know Kavanaugh and has no recollection of ever being at a party with him. Walsh added that while Keyser believes Ford's account, she is "unable to corroborate it because she has no recollection of the incident in question."
A second accuser was also interviewed over the weekend - Deborah Ramirez. Her allegation against Kavanaugh is that he exposed himself to her at a Yale University party, also in the 1980s. Both Kavanaugh and Ramirez were students at Yale at the time.
According to AP, Ramirez has provided investigators with the names of people who she claims can verify her allegation.
Kavanaugh has denied all the allegations of sexual assault.
Questions regarding the investigation mounted as more people came forward with testimony they wanted the FBI to hear.
One such statement came from a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh's, who said he is "deeply troubled by what has been a blatant mischaracterisation by Brett himself of his drinking at Yale." Charles "Chad" Ludington, who now teaches at North Carolina State University, said he was a friend of Kavanaugh's at Yale. He claims Kavanaugh was "a frequent drinker, and a heavy drinker."
The third woman to make allegations against Kavanaugh is Julie Swetnick. She has accused Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge of excessive drinking and inappropriate treatment of women in the early 1980s. While she did not name Kavanaugh as actually doing anything, she also claimed he was present at so-called “gang-rape” parties.
Kavanaugh has called her accusations a "joke," while Judge "categorically" denies them.
Swetnick's attorney, Michael Avenatti, said on Monday that his client was willing to cooperate with the FBI. So far the FBI has not contacted Swetnick.
Adding to the drama is the report from Rachel Mitchell, an Arizona prosecutor who was hired by Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans to question Kavanaugh and Ford.
In her memo, Mitchell outlines why she does not believe any criminal charges would be brought against Kavanaugh if the case had been heard as a criminal case, rather than as part of a Supreme Court confirmation process.
In a report on CBS, Mitchell identified some of the problems she found with Ford’s testimony. According to Mitchell, Ford’s inability to pinpoint when the alleged assault took place, her struggle to clearly identify Kavanaugh as her assailant by name and the lack of key details are all concerning. Some key details she feels are missing include how Ford got to the party, and where the party took place.
"In the legal context, here is my bottom line: A ‘he said, she said’ case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that," wrote Mitchell.